Greenberg’s #TalkTheGameUp crusade targets unfair critics of the game
The veil of social media means you cannot look into the eye of a tweeter and judge the mood of the person thumbing the smartphone keys.
So we can't say that NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg was, like Peter Finch in the movie Network, as mad as hell and couldn't take it any more when he created his #TalkTheGameUp campaign.
What we do know is that the NRL boss was looking for a way to short circuit the relentless and often contrived negativity that has stifled his competition's growth.
Greenberg tweeted his appeal to the game's better instincts in response to yet another typically hysterical, mindless and self-serving attack on the NRL's rules crackdown.
The NRL's great sin had been to insist players who are supposed to retreat 10 metres before the play-the-ball actually retreated 10 metres. Even worse, referees had penalised players who had illegally restricted the ball player. The horror!
As a result, penalty counts grew faster than the national debt and there were unusual delays. But, as any open-minded, agenda-free observer could see, the crackdown was required to implement an overdue correction.
With their ears ringing from the constant whistling, players would eventually retreat the full 10 metres, tacklers would release the ball player faster and the game would flow better than before.
Yet the blizzard of relentless negativity over the crackdown directed toward Greenberg and his officials was as inevitable as a match-winning Queensland try in the final minutes of a State of Origin decider.
It came not just from the most ignorant and parochial fans, but from those in the media whose self-appointed role is to forensically examine all elements of an excellent sport in search of perceived faults and declare the game to be in perpetual "crisis".
External Link: @Stick_Beetle: "I was at the Raiders v Bulldogs game coupla rds ago and when Ata Hingano got knocked out Dave Klemmer went straight to hlep him even though the dogs were behind and attacking the raiders line, he only had hingano's well being in mind. #Talkupthegame"
So Greenberg either took it upon himself (or took the advice of a media minder) and bypassed the usual Monday morning doorstop by talking directly to the fans with a simple message: #TalkTheGameUp
The hashtag resonated with those who had grown weary of the daily bombardment of bitter NRL bile.
Those players, administrators, fans, volunteers and more reasonable members of the media who understand the damage decades of this relentless and often contrived "crisis" had done to the sport.
They realised, particularly, that ill-conceived criticism of a game that has grown into a wonderful, athletic spectacle has been a millstone in the face of stiff opposition from rival codes.
They know the self-serving mantra of the serial muckrakers — "rugby league thrives on crisis" — is merely an excuse to drag a pretty good game through the mud.
There's good reason to question the hashtag
Of course, predictably, Greenberg's #TalkTheGameUp campaign has been a red rag to those who believe it is their right to rip and tear at rugby league like it is the only steak at a bricklayers barbecue has been challenged.
Ignorantly or perhaps mischievously, some in the media decided #TalkTheGameUp was a directive to them not, as seemed obvious, an attempt to circumvent them and talk directly to the fans.
Even usually measured reporters huffed that the NRL had no right to insist the media bent to the game's will and overlook legitimate causes for criticism.
Never mind that some of these reporters have had no problem tailoring their copy to the agendas of valued sources or their media outlets.
This is, of course, patently true.
There is good reason to question Greenberg's hashtag on the grounds that the NRL has too often created or overlooked systemic problems that required harsh scrutiny.
Good luck "talking up" the NRL's decision to register Matthew Lodge this season despite his failure to pay the toll for his New York rampage, or allegations of domestic assault. (Although perversely, some in the NRL media still managed to do just that.)
Similarly there are many very good reporters exposing areas such as salary cap rorting and other behavioural, administrative and on-field issues that cannot and should not be glossed over with a hashtag or even a smiley face emoji.
As the custodians of the game, the generously paid Greenberg and his new chairman Peter Beattie deserve the most rigorous scrutiny.
As some reporters have stated, to fail to hold the game to account is to fail the fans who have a large financial and emotional investment.
While the rules crackdown was justified, the worst mistakes of officials will also attract understandable scrutiny.
In that regard, it was refreshing that the NRL immediately admitted the mistake in awarding a try to Dragons winger Nene McDonald on Anzac Day.
But, again, for members of the NRL media to suddenly channel their inner Woodward and Bernstein and claim they are being censored completely misses the point of the #TalkTheGameUp campaign
This was not a demand that journalists report the NRL through a sepia-toned lens and ignore its worst crimes and misdemeanours.
It was an appeal to fans and others who love the game to ignore the very worst indulgences of the "crisis merchants" — a term, incidentally, coined in this column and borrowed by Greenberg.
Thus #TalkTheGameUp was not an attack on the free press by an official armed with a powerful social media tool.
It was a legitimate response to those whose main objective is not to fairly examine rugby league, but to drag a good game into the gutter.